The pandemic has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the U.S education system. Parents, educators, and the government cannot agree on the best way to resume school this semester. The result is a myriad of solutions across the country, ranging from completely remote learning to fully in-person classes. If you’re among the many who have been told to prepare for remote learning — don’t worry!
Your child is not doomed to a subpar learning experience. In fact, it’s just the opposite. As a father of two 5-year-olds here in New Jersey, my wife and I have brainstormed with friends and neighbors throughout the pandemic to figure out the best ways to maximize the virtual learning experience. Here are the four keys to success for virtual learning and young kids that we felt every parent could use.
1. Create a Defining Space for Learning
Though it’s impossible to mimic the bright and colorful space that is a classroom on the first day of school, it is possible to give your child their own remote learning office space. In the same way that we all are desiring the work from home space during this new normal, children need spaces to do the same. Here are some tips to help you create a home classroom or “home office” for your child.
- Limit Distractions: Children aren’t known for their laser focus; they’re easily distracted. This is especially true in a home setting, where their toys, the television, and the backyard are just minutes away. Work to set up distraction blockers, including anything from content blockers on your web browser to cardboard distraction blockers on your student’s desk.
- Bright Light: To keep your student motivated and awake, be sure to work in the brightest space in your home. Sunlight is very beneficial. It’s been proven to help boost moods, have a calming effect, and help to enhance focus. It’s the perfect educational aid for any remote student.
- Consider Ergonomics: No one wants to sit in an uncomfortable position for hours at a time. While it may seem silly to think of ergonomics for a kindergartener, it’s essential. Find a comfortable chair for your child. Ensure that your child’s desk is at the right height. Their feet should reach the floor with ease, and their arms should bend at 90 degrees to their desk.
- Work with Your Student: If possible, keep your child’s virtual learning space near you as you work from home. It’s a great time for bonding, even if you are both quietly completing work. Plus, they’ll be excited to “go to work” with you!
2. Take Advantage of the Outdoors
Studies have shown that play is an essential aspect of childhood development. Not only will your child have fun during play, but they will also foster cognitive, social, physical, and emotional development. Not to mention, rigorous play helps children expend excess energy, which can result in them becoming restless, fidgety, or distracted during their class time.
At school, children don’t get the opportunity to have recess with their parents. However, you can make the most out of your remote learning setup, by scheduling daily “recess” with your child. During this time, you can take advantage of your backyard or New Jersey’s parks family activity that breaks the monotony of the day. Whether you engage in an exciting game of tag or compete with one another on the monkey bars, you’ll be putting your child in the best position to maximize their online learning capabilities.
3. Set a Daily Schedule
One of the lesser-known benefits of in-person schooling is that it provides students with structure throughout their day. Students are taught to transition to different subjects with ease, manage their needs and wants, and stay engaged for longer periods. It’s essential for families to mimic that structure through a daily schedule.
Since most of us don’t have the luxury of abandoning our day jobs to teach and nurture our kids all day, don’t be afraid to get creative. If you have multiple adults or older children in the home take on a team approach where you take turns teaching and monitoring the little ones. You can work with the schedule sent by your student’s teacher; this should be the foundation of your schedule. You can customize your schedule by including things like wake-up time, breakfast, recess, and downtime. If your child is younger and learning reading skills, teach them a color-based system. Green for school time, red for recess, etc. This can help to keep both you and your child on track.
4. Motivate Your Student
It’s challenging to inspire children to give their all to their studies. Especially when those same children are more concerned with giving their all to the television or iPad. That’s why parents should prioritize methods to increase student motivation at home. There are many ways to achieve this, but it should be based on some of the most common systems found in classrooms.
Generally, teachers work with a system for behavior that rewards good behavior and acknowledges bad behavior. For example, with a stoplight system, students start at the green light. A first offense would have a student move down to yellow. However, if their behavior is excellent all day, they may be rewarded by moving up to blue, the light just above the green light. In this system, children are motivated to be good students. You can feel free to customize your own, but keep the foundation of motivation in mind!
The pandemic has thrown everyone curveballs, and many people have faced hardships. However, we have been able to get through them by leaning on one another during these troubling times. You might not get thanks from your six-year-old for waking them up at 7 am to attend their virtual class, but doing your best for your children is a reward in and of itself. Good luck, and stay safe!